First Circuit Distinguishes “Release” from “Disposal” in Affirming CERCLA Liability of Facility Owner
On November 17, 2021, the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed a decision of the lower court that the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company (PRIDCO) was prima facie liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq., that it could not avail itself of the contiguous property owner defense, and that the selected response action was not arbitrary or capricious. The decision is particularly noteworthy in that the only identified contamination was in the groundwater under PRIDCO’s property, with no evidence that the source of the contamination was any activity on PRIDCO’s property. Nevertheless, the Court held that because the movement of groundwater constitute a continuous “release,” CERCLA liability attached.